WASHINGTON, D.C. | February 16, 2012
Last January, we began a discussion on the importance of rewriting elementary and secondary education law. We acknowledged No Child Left Behind’s shortcomings, and convened a series of hearings in which dozens of witnesses described the challenges facing our nation’s education system. We discussed the overly prescriptive accountability system that has labeled half our schools as failures, explored the inadequacies of federal teacher policies, and examined the regulatory burdens confronting states and school districts.
Through these conversations, we have forged areas of agreement among members on both sides of the aisle. We can all see the value of parental engagement and support the development of more high quality charter schools. We also agree student progress should be a larger factor in teacher evaluations, and we support the continued use of disaggregated data to help protect vulnerable student populations and ensure all students have access to quality education opportunities.
No one said rewriting a law as influential as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act would be easy. Just as we found common ground, we also unearthed differences. All members share the desire to see our schools improve and have negotiated in good faith. Education reform is an issue that will shape future generations, and we cannot afford to let the conversation stall. For the sake of our children, we must continue working toward a consensus.
We are here today to discuss the merits of two proposals, the Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act, which I believe present a new way forward for K-12 education. These proposals build upon the progress made under No Child Left Behind, while also offering thoughtful solutions to address its shortfalls. However, this is a legislative hearing, and as such, I expect and welcome a robust debate on ways the policies in these bills could be modified to better meet our shared goal of empowering students to achieve their full potential.
The Student Success Act will restore each state’s authority and responsibility to meet the needs of its students and schools. Instead of a one-size-fits-all federal accountability system, our bill directs each state to develop its own system that takes into account the unique needs of students and communities, with the flexibility to use multiple measures of student achievement. Each state will also implement its own methods for identifying low-performing schools and implementing successful strategies for turning failing schools around.
Most notably, the legislation recognizes the need to preserve a high bar for student success. The bill maintains important requirements that states and school districts continue to make and meet high benchmarks for student learning. States must administer annual reading and math assessments and report the results disaggregated by student population, providing parents important information about their child’s school.
The second bill we will discuss today, the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act, consolidates several federal teacher programs into a flexible grant state and local leaders can use to fund programs that work. It also empowers states to develop their own teacher evaluation systems based on student learning and supports creative approaches, such as performance pay and alternative paths to certification, which will help recruit and keep the most effective educators in our schools.
The provisions included in the Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act reflect the input we have received from parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, and others in the education community. Additionally, these proposals strike a more appropriate balance between the need for a limited federal role to ensure transparency and the demand for state and local control.
Unlike the administration’s plan to offer temporary waivers that keep schools tied to a failing law, the proposals before us today take a step closer to enacting lasting education reforms that will raise the bar for student achievement and improve the classroom experience for children nationwide.
I have no doubt there will be differences of opinion today. However, I look forward to getting feedback from our excellent panel of witnesses, stakeholders in the education community, and from my colleagues on either side of the aisle.
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